Friday, December 31, 2010

Finally. Some Frightful Weather.

At last.  Some snow in Denver.  Also, frigid temperatures.  Is winter finally here?

I finished that last semester, wrapped up some Christmas presents, and then whisked my children off to Idaho for five days so that we could see, enjoy, and love on our family there.  It was great--a truly fun and enjoyable trip--except that I didn't sleep the last two nights we were there, and we flew back into Denver early Christmas morning.  I sat in my jammies in our living room, sipping a cup of hot coffee and watching the kids tear into their presents in an exhausted and pleasant stupor.  I also tore into a few of my own presents, which were all wonderful.  I'm so tempted to take you on a tour of my gifts, but that seems a little...I don't know.  Suffice it to say I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, all of them.  It was a wonderful day.

We're wrapping up the last week of Christmas break now and I'm finding it difficult to get serious about getting ready for next semester.  I have two new classes that need some serious attention.  My research partner, dear friend, and taskmaster Juan was in a serious skiing accident before Christmas, and I may need to step up my contributions to our shared projects as a result.  Eric and I are traveling almost every month for the next six months, independently, for work.

It's going to be a doozy.

And yet, here it is 9:30, an ungodly late hour of the morning, and I'm still in my jammies.  With absolutely no desire to get out of them.  This is unheard of for me, at least in my post-children life.

And I don't want it to end.

Hmmm.  How can I bring a bit of this sweeter, gentler pace into my hectic spring schedule?  I think I'll imagine on that particular outcome for a while today.  Happy new year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Last Few Months in Cell Phone Photos

It's that time of year again.  Some or all of us may or may not be going out of town for the holiday (I don't like to say in case one of you pervies is casing our joint).  You're wondering where we're going.   It's somewhere fun, but not this fun:

Boy, that was fun.  I won't say where these were taken, because some people who are not pervies but who have a very big say in my professional future believe I should be working all the time and don't like to think about the fact that I might have gone on a vacation once.

Did I mention that Addie was the Statue of Liberty for Halloween?

What a cool little nerdlet.  Her whole school (which shall remain nameless, pervies) did a parade and so many kids who marched past her were enthralled with her costume.  They must have recently studied civics.  Either way, it was a big success.  Thank you $14.99 on eBay.

Skipping ahead a few holidays, here is a required shot with the North Polonskies:

See that smile Addie's doing?  That's her new fake smile.  It's a bummer.  It makes getting good pictures of her hard.  E. says the same about me.

Do I ever look like the same person twice?  And see the kids' faces in that one?  That's them being scared to death to meet Santa.  My children are anxious about meeting famous people.  But then they get over it and they act like they've known them forever, and fart on their laps.

And now, for the biggest news of all:  our family is skiing.  I won't tell you how much it cost to buy passes for everyone.  Okay, I will:  IT WAS ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.  And that's not including the little bits of equipment that we needed to purchase and still need to purchase.  I get faint thinking about it.

We had our first day in the mountains on Sunday and I was so nervous because what if one of the kids refused to put her boots on?  Or refused to go out on the mountain?  Or refused to ski down, choosing instead to do that limp noodle thing?  That would be ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS in the crapper.

Well, all of those things happened, and still by the end of the day both girls were skiing down the bunny slope and Addie even went on the chair lift once.  Nolie proclaimed from the magic carpet, "I LOVE skiing!  I'm going to ski all DAY!"

That was Addie in the green, there.  Not screaming and having a tantrum.  She's not Lindsay Vonn, but she's not pitching a fit, either.  Brilliant.

And E. and I got to snowboard and eat nachos and beer together.  Alone.

I'm not going to say all that was worth ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS, but it was pretty close.  It was a beautiful, perfect day, I got to reunite with my sporty self, my husband and kids rose to the occasion, and we get to do it bunches more times this season.

Have a great holiday, my friends.  I hope to see some of you soon around the pool.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Imitation, Flattery, Etc.

Was just zoning out to a little bit of Shabby Apple (yum) and noticing that they put out a new version of one of my favorite dresses, the Bugle Boy.  Except now they're calling it the Ming, and they put a navy skirt on it with a black belt.

Sound familiar?  Hmm?  Hmm??

Monday, December 13, 2010

Punch List

  • Read over article revision again.  Watch out for repeating words, which you always do when you've been writing intensely for a few days.  Pray for fresh eyes.
  • That other chapter has come back.  Add in missing references, write yet another short bio (because you're never the same two days in a row), and sign the contract.  Mail.
  • Read articles on nanotechnology.  No, you haven't studied that in years, but that other short article is due by the end of December.  How come you agreed to do that again?
  • Grade final papers.
  • Go to post office and mail eight (yes, 8!) boxes for Christmas.
  • Get an allergy shot and pray you don't have a third anaphylactic shock because your immune system is as reactionary as a Republican on flag day.
  • Pick up your prescription nasal steroid so that your polyps don't get any bigger.
  • Deposit that check in the bank.  E's company isn't paying you until the end of January, now, rather than on the first.  Like Tim Gunn says, make it work!
  • Submit article revision.  Keep fingers crossed the reviewers are sated by total rewrite.
  • Grade final exams.
  • Submit final grades.  Wonder which students skewered you on course evaluations, and whether you'll run afoul of the grade inflation police.
  • Fret about two new, unformed, risky courses in the spring.  Wonder when those syllabi will get finished.
  • Snowboard ass off.
  • And...repeat.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Yes, Exactly.

"I have nothing against novelty in buildings--I am quite taken with the glass pyramid at the Louvre and those buildings at La Defense that have the huge holes in the middle--but I just hate the way architects, city planners, and everyone else responsible for urban life seem to have lost sight of what cities are for.  They are for people.  That is obvious enough, but for half a century we have been building cities that are designed for almost anything else:  for cars, for businesses, for developers, for people with money and bold visions who refuse to see cities from ground level, as places in which people must live and function and get around.  Why should I have to walk through a damp tunnel and negotiate two sets of stairs to get across a busy street?  Why should cars be given priority over me?  How can we be so rich and so stupid at the same time?  It is the curse of our century--too much money, too little sense...."

--Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There:  Travels in Europe

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choice This

Hey!  I'm getting an exciting opportunity to practice releasing control over outcomes.  Love when that happens.

Turns out that it looks like Nolie may not get into "choice" into the school that Addie tested into because of her gifted and talented results.  This is because it's a good school and 600 students want to choice into it because, as we all know, the public school system is uneven and a den of inequity (sic intended).  Plus, the economy has tanked and not so many folks are wanting to or can support education with higher taxes.  And the states are bankrupt.  Which at this little elementary school means they haven't been able to build an addition to accommodate their exploding enrollment rates and have to pack children in like sardines.

And that's the good school.

Don't even get me started on how the kids only get 20 minutes for lunch and a 20 minute recess.  I find these things obscene.  An obscene result of the emphasis on test results, primarily, but also an obscene philosophy that sees kids as little receptacles that need to be filled with information and then spat out into a workforce.

Okay, so I'm pissed.

I'm also pissed that we have to "choice" in anywhere.  I'm pissed that they couldn't accommodate my bright, quirky kid at our "home" school and that I have to drive her across the city to go to a school where she won't be isolated or picked on for being a good reader and a skoosh odd (odd in the best sort of way).  I'm pissed that all kids don't have access to excellent schools.  I'm pissed that we had to pay the equivalent of two college tuitions to get our kids through preschool.  Preschool.  I'm grateful that we could afford to do that in our family, but pissed that it meant E and I working our asses off to make it happen, and pissed that other families could not begin to afford that.  Inequity, inequality, bullshit:  whatever you want to call it, it's bullshit.

Most immediately, I'm mad that if Nolie isn't allowed to "choice" into the same school as Addie, we really have three options:

1)  Keep Nolie at her very expensive preschool for her kindergarten year.  We can afford it, and it's a wonderful school, but we were hoping to have that $10,000 extra next year to free us both up from some other work/obligations and to pay off some debt.  Ah, the difficulties of privilege.

2)  Put Nolie in our "home" school for her kindergarten year.  Addie stays at her GT school.  Mommy and Daddy go crazy for one more year, dealing with the dual drop-off non-matching school schedules thing while trying to keep two careers going.  Pray Nolie tests into GT and gets to go to Addie's school.  Try not to put any pressure on her to do so, though, because we think she's amazing no matter what.  Go crazy trying not to be crazy.

3)  Put Nolie in our "home" school for her kindergarten year and transfer Addie back to our "home" school.  But do we put her in second or third grade now?  How do we handle the problem of her not being accommodated there?  What does it mean to do that to our kid?  To us?

When I'm able to access my unchurch self, I just calm down and let it all go and know that something will happen that enables Nolie to choice into the GT school or that resolves this problem for us.

My problem-solving ego self is mostly just pissed, though.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We Love It!

Crap.  I only have 10 days to get that article done before Christmas whacks us full on in the face, with travel to family and all that.  Confidence, take that.

Here's some nice scenes from around the house.

I like that Addie set up the nativity scene to make it seem like Baby Joysus was crowdsourced.

These figurines are so old and dirty they probably carry viruses that were only around when Baby Joysus was actually born.  Get the Lysol!

Our fully decorated tree.  Fully decorated thanks to my mother, who gave me Christmas ornaments every year of my life.  This seemed so completely lame when I was a teenager and in my twenties, but I'm grateful for them now.  Chalk one up to mom wisdom.

Note the Christmas ball, rather than angel, at the top.  E.'s atheist self would have a hissy fit if there was an angel there.  So I like whispering things like, "Honey, don't worry.  The angels are there even if we can't see them!"  He loves it!

My favorites get hung on the kitchen light.  E. loves it when I hang tchotchkes everywhere!  He loves it!

Although our singing/dancing cowboy Santa with the "Holly Jolly Christmas" tune is nowhere to be found this year.  Hmmm.

We all love Christmas, though.  We love it!

On Writing

There are a few interesting happenings on the parenting front, like the fact that E. and I finally had it with Magnolia's night wakings (getting oppressive again) and last night at 2 in the morning agreed she was just going to have to cry it out, and then hunkered down like Berliners during the siege.  But the crying it out lasted about 2.5 minutes and then was over and then she slept all night long.

Stunning.  Revelation.  Better than the Book of Revelations, which is what we were living before.

Also, the homework wars with Addie, where there is much screaming and gnashing of teeth and pleading with us to "HELP ME!" and then "YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!" and then we call Child Protective Services because we cannot be trusted not to kill this child before she turns seven, seem to be over.  Of course, these things are never really over.  They just cycle.  But for now, we have a detente.

What I really want to write about, though, is writing.  Academic writing.

Boooooring, I know.  But it's on my mind.

See, all semester long I've known I had two kind of major writing projects to tackle before the term ended.  You might remember I had a fairly writing-intensive summer, churning out a bunch of small pieces, one or two medium pieces, and a long article.  Then this semester came, and I got swallowed by a calendar full of meetings, departmental drama, and a thousand talks/guest-teaching spots.  Which was all very nice, but which also gave me a very convenient excuse to not work on my two major writing tasks.  See, in practice, I tend to not need huge chunks of time for writing.  I can sit down for two hours and make progress on something, but then I need to go do something else, like scoop out the kitty litter, or my brain explodes.  But I still have graduate-student brain, which tells me I need an eight-hour stretch to get anything meaningful done.  And my graduate-student brain is convincing, especially when I don't really want to work on my writing tasks or I'm afraid.  So I frequently put off doing my writing until I have a beautiful eight-hour stretch of time.

That never happens, of course, the eight-hour block of time during which to write.  If it does happen, I sabotage it by polishing my shoes or something, which suddenly seems very urgent when I'm faced with an eight-hour block of time.  I'm much more productive when I have two-hours and better write like my ass is on fire or it won't get done.

Good to know about one's self.

The other good news is that one of the writing projects fell away.  I thought I was going to have a chapter due by the end of December, but the editors postponed the book project for another year while they go after a big-gun publisher.  Good news and good news.  Because I was not ready to write that thing and would have had to pull out of the project.

The other project, though, was an article revision.  That longer piece I had submitted this summer was, well, hastily done.  In fact, I never should have submitted it in the form it was submitted in.  I am embarrassed and ashamed.  But, to be honest, I wanted it out the freaking door and I let my haste overwhelm my better judgment.

Somehow, by some gift of God, the article received what's called an "R&R"--an invitation to Revise and Resubmit (not rest and relax, unfortunately).  This really was a gift, as the article deserved to be rejected outright.  But the editor must have been feeling charitable that day, and let it slide.

The reviewers of the paper didn't, however, and called for a total rewrite.

So I've been thinking about that rewrite all semester, and fearing it and dreading it.  This is a piece I'd sure like to get published, as it would fill a bit of a hole in my research.  I've been working on it a long time, though not to great effect, as I stated earlier.  I want to succeed.

Good set up for procrastination and writer's block.  I was thinking I would not get it done.  I was thinking about how I hate this part of the job, the solo writing aspect.  I was thinking about how sitting down to do this is favorable only to pap smears and tax hearings.

But then, I started.  And something odd happened.  My grad-student brain--which loathes and fears writing and failure tremendously--went away, and I started to enjoy the writing!  This has happened a few times before.  There is a flow to academic writing, sometimes, that is very creative and fun.  But I had psyched myself out so much I had forgotten that could happen.

I had also forgotten that I had done quite a bit of writing and reading over the course of the semester on my topic.  Little smatterings here and there, but which are coming together in ways more meaningful than I had expected.

Not to say that the article is a work of genius, or even that it will be accepted on this go-around.  It may not, and then I'll have to do another revision and send it out to another journal.  My point is that the process of writing this has been much more enjoyable than I anticipated.  The worry about sitting down to write was much worse.

This is the kind of lesson I'm amnesiac about, unfortunately.  Do you think I'll ever grow out of sitting down to write for work with fear and trepidation?  Or at some point will I learn to trust myself and the outcome?

Monday, December 6, 2010


This poem popped in my head the morning before Thanksgiving.  I was so excited that my brother and his wife were coming to visit, and so glad our friends would be with us.  And this weird little thing just appeared.  So, for posterity:


It was you who hand-pressed the gown
of Marilyn Monroe,
caught the sequin dangling from her hip, pleated
the chiffon back in place                       
your nose in its timeless smell.

[you are the timeless]

You are the first breath of
my first born, the squall
of life
breaking the ribcage open
to the world, filling my heart
with your heart.

[you, my heart]

You are dust in the eye of Hannibal           
The wake of ocean liners
The clack of the time clock punched
over and over again
The inverted lid at Ellis Island
The pull of the jackpot.

[you are the jackpot]

You are all things
no thing
You are gifts flown here on
the wind, gifts always been.


Not gifts at all.
But evidence that life begets life,
and wills itself to be good.




Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yet Another Freaking Advent Calendar

Mostly, I've been grading papers and going to meetings.  But we are sneaking in some crafting here and there, preparing for giftmas (thanks, C n T) and playing with the girls.  If you follow the crafty blogs, you know there are about a million and one advent calendar designs out there.  I love doing the advents--the kids get a kick out of it, and it reminds me of the deliciously painful process of waiting for Christmas when I was a child.  My favorite one is in the Garnet Hill catalog, which is also my very favorite catalog for dreaming about being rich and buying everything in it.   But my gizzles, puh-lease, who is going to pay $58 for an advent calendar?  Not moi.

I'll gladly rip the idea off in my use-all-my-scraps-up kind of way, however.

What's that you're asking?  Will I be going out to buy little gifts to put in each little bag?

Heck no!  That would be contrary to my penny-pinching mentality 'round the Holidays.  Instead, they're stuffed with things we had lying around:  lollipops from the candy stash, embroidery thread friendship bracelets, quarters.

I would have liked to sew numbers on, but that would take more juice than I have at the moment.  Next year.

The countdown begins.  Hello, December!

Another Record-Making, Fantastic, Wonderful Thanksgiving

Folks, Thanksgiving just continues to be my favorite holiday.  I didn't think we could top last year, when we headed to the mountains, just the four of us, and relaxed and ate and loved each other.

But this year topped it!  It topped it big time!  Friends and family all around, and so many, many eats and drinks, and our little Charlie Brown "gratitude tree":

Love you all.  Hope you had a great holiday!